Thursday, April 05, 2007

Genealogy Quote #7

A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham:

1:1 The opening verse of Matthew’s Gospel introduces its main character and describes his identity in very Jewish terms. The first phrase, “a record of the genealogy” (biblos geneseōs), would more literally be translated “a book of the genesis” (or origin). This phrase has therefore been taken to refer to the entire Gospel or to all of 1:1–4:16, but genesis is not a natural description of the contents of the whole book or of the events of Jesus’ adult life. The NIV understandably limits this heading to the genealogy that follows, but genesis reappears in 1:18 with reference to Jesus’ conception. In the LXX comparable phrases regularly refer both to genealogies and to the narrative material that follows them, but they do not generally refer to entire biblical books (see Gen 5:1a as the introduction to 5:1–9:29). The best interpretation of the opening words of Matthew thus views them as a heading for all of chaps. 1–2. They therefore carry the sense of an account of the origin.

Key Matthean titles for Jesus also appear here in the opening verse. “Christ” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Meshiach (Messiah), meaning Anointed One. There was a great diversity of Jewish messianic expectation in the first century and previous eras, but one common thread involved liberation of Israel from its enemies.2 “Son of David” points to the Messiah’s necessary lineage and royal role (see 2 Sam 7:11b–16). The classic intertestamental illustration of the messianic Son of David appears in Pss Sol 17:21–18:7—a righteous warrior-king who establishes God’s rule in Israel.3 “Son of Abraham” traces Jesus’ lineage back to the founding father of the nation of Israel, thus ensuring his Jewish pedigree from the earliest stage of his people’s history. But echoes are probably also to be heard here of God’s promises to Abraham that his offspring would bless all the peoples of the earth (Gen 12:1–3). “Son of Abraham” also carried messianic overtones as well in at least some intertestamental Jewish circles (e.g., T. Levi 8:15).

Already in this title verse, key themes of chaps. 1–2 are presented in a nutshell. Matthew’s names for Jesus present him as the fulfillment of the hopes and prophecies of Israel but also as one who will extend God’s blessings to Gentiles. His birth marks a new epoch in human history.

2. Genealogy (1:2–17)

The first main portion of the account of Jesus’ origin presents his genealogy in order to validate Matthew’s claims that Jesus is the son of Abraham and of David. The genealogy divides into three sections, as v. 17 makes clear. The times of Abraham, of David, and of the Babylonian exile mark the beginnings of these three periods. The genealogy culminates in the arrival of the Christ (vv. 16–17). Thus all three titles of v. 1 reappear as central elements in the genealogy. The Babylonian exile appears centrally as well, perhaps because Jesus is seen as the climax of the restoration of the nation of Israel from exile.

David, however, is the central figure throughout the genealogy. When one adds up the numerical values of the Hebrew consonants in his name (DVD), one arrives at the number fourteen (4+6+4). This gematria, as ancient Hebrew numerical equivalents to words are termed, probably accounts for the centrality of the number fourteen in Matthew’s genealogy. Each of the three sections contains fourteen generations (v. 17), and David’s name itself is the fourteenth entry. The actual number of generations in the three parts to the genealogy are thirteen, fourteen, and thirteen, respectively; but ancient counting often alternated between inclusive and exclusive reckoning. Such variation was thus well within standard literary convention of the day (for a good rabbinic parallel, see m. ˓Abot 5:1–6). When one compares the genealogy with Luke’s account (Luke 3:23–37) and with various Old Testament narratives, it is clear that Matthew has omitted several names to achieve this literary symmetry. But the verb consistently translated in the NIV “was the father of” (more literally begat) could also mean was the ancestor of. Other differences from Luke are more difficult to explain. Two major proposals concern the divergence of names in the two genealogies: (1) Luke presents Mary’s genealogy, while Matthew relates Joseph’s; (2) Luke has Jesus’ actual human ancestry through Joseph, while Matthew gives his legal ancestry by which he was the legitimate successor to the throne of David. Knowing which of these solutions is more likely probably is impossible unless new evidence turns up.4

2Abraham was the father of Isaac,

Isaac the father of Jacob,

Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,

3Judah the father of Perez and Zerah,

whose mother was Tamar,

Perez the father of Hezron,

Hezron the father of Ram,

4Ram the father of Amminadab,

Amminadab the father of Nahshon,

Nahshon the father of Salmon,

5Salmon the father of Boaz,

whose mother was Rahab,

Boaz the father of Obed,

whose mother was Ruth,

Obed the father of Jesse,

6and Jesse the father of King David.

David was the father of Solomon,

whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,

7Solomon the father of Rehoboam,

Rehoboam the father of Abijah,

Abijah the father of Asa,

8Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,

Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,

Jehoram the father of Uzziah,

9Uzziah the father of Jotham,

Jotham the father of Ahaz,

Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,

10Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,

Manasseh the father of Amon,

Amon the father of Josiah,

11and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.

12After the exile to Babylon:

Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,

Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,

13Zerubbabel the father of Abiud,

Abiud the father of Eliakim,

Eliakim the father of Azor,

14Azor the father of Zadok,

Zadok the father of Akim,

Akim the father of Eliud,

15Eliud the father of Eleazar,

Eleazar the father of Matthan,

Matthan the father of Jacob,

16and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary,

of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

17Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ.

1:2–17 Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah figure prominently in Gen 12–50. The other male names in vv. 2–6a correspond to 1 Chr 2:3–15. Solomon through Josiah (vv. 6b–11) all appear in 1 Chr 3:10–14 (recalling that Azariah is the same individual as Uzziah—cf., e.g., 2 Kgs 15:1–2 with 2 Chr 26:3—and that there are omissions in Matthew’s list). In vv. 12–16 Jeconiah is a variant form of Jehoiachin, who with Shealtiel and Zerubbabel appear in 1 Chr 3:17–19. But there Zerubbabel is a nephew of Shealtiel, which may suggest that the latter died childless and that the line of succession passed to his brother’s family. In Ezra 3:2, Zerubbabel is legally considered a son of Shealtiel. The rest of the names from Abiud to Jacob are unparalleled, but ancient Jews tried scrupulously to preserve their genealogies; so it is not implausible that Matthew had access to sources that have since been lost.

Deviations from the otherwise repetitive pattern of “X the father of Y” throughout these verses begin with the addition of “and his brothers” to the reference to Judah in v. 2. Obviously, it was natural to speak of all twelve of the sons of Jacob as founding fathers of the tribes of Israel. In v. 3 Zerah appears along with his twin brother Perez, a natural pairing (Gen 38:27–30). In v. 11 Jeconiah also appears with “his brothers,” again a reference to the nation of Israel as a whole at the time of its deportation. Otherwise the most notable break in pattern in Matthew’s genealogy involves the introduction of five women, both unnecessary and unusual in Jewish genealogies. These include Tamar (v. 3; cf. Gen 38), Rahab5 (v. 5; cf. Josh 2), Ruth (v. 5; cf. Ruth 3), Bathsheba (v. 6; cf. 2 Sam 11)— referred to only as “Uriah’s wife,” perhaps to remind the reader of David’s adulterous and murderous behavior—and Mary (v. 16).

Why are the first four of these women included? Suggestions have included viewing them as examples of sinners Jesus came to save, representative Gentiles to whom the Christian mission would be extended, or women who had illicit marriages and/or illegitimate children. The only factor that clearly applies to all four is that suspicions of illegitimacy surrounded their sexual activity and childbearing.6 This suspicion of illegitimacy fits perfectly with that which surrounded Mary, which Matthew immediately takes pains to refute (vv. 18–25). In fact, the grammar of v. 16 makes clear that Joseph was not the human father of Jesus because the pronoun “whom” is feminine and therefore can refer only to Mary as a human parent of the Christ child.

Within the Gospels, Jewish polemic hinted (John 8:48) and in the early centuries of the Christian era explicitly charged that Jesus was an illegitimate child. Matthew here strenuously denies the charge, but he also points out that key members of the messianic genealogy were haunted by similar suspicions (justified in at least the two cases of Tamar and Bathsheba and probably unjustified in the case of Ruth). Such suspicions, nevertheless, did not impugn the spiritual character of the individuals involved. In fact, Jesus comes to save precisely such people. Already here in the genealogy, Jesus is presented as the one who will ignore human labels of legitimacy and illegitimacy to offer his gospel of salvation to all, including the most despised and outcast of society. A question for the church to ask itself in any age is how well it is visibly representing this commitment to reach out to the oppressed and marginalized of society with the good news of salvation in Christ.7

At the same time, Matthew inherently honors the five women of his genealogy simply by his inclusion of them. So it is not enough merely to minister to the oppressed; we must find ways of exalting them and affirming their immense value in God’s eyes.

Source : Quinton Howitt

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